The Year of Secret Assignments
(a.k.a. Finding Cassie Crazy)
by Jaclyn Moriarty
So, I loved this book. Really, really loved it. There aren't really any words good enough to accurately explain just how much I loved this book, but I'll try.Summary: Three female students from Ashbury High write to three male students from rival Brookfield High as part of a pen pal program, leading to romance, humiliation, revenge plots, and war between the schools.
It's written through things like letters and emails and diary entries, and that format would normally bug me but Jaclyn Moriarty somehow manages to make it work. It's a style that seems like it would be shallow or that the story would feel incomplete/lacking because of it, but it wasn't. It was the perfect mix of deep and meaningful, and stuff to make you laugh out loud (which I did quite a lot while reading), and characters I would love to know.
Each of the characters is bursting with personality and I just...I loved it. They're all really distinctive and I loved how she made them really real and unstereotypical.
Like Emma - she's loves shopping and horses and is very girly-girl, and she messes up her grammar and things sometimes and it would be so easy for her character to just be written as a total airhead, but she's smart. English may not be her best subject, but she isn't portrayed as stupid (while so many characters in books with her personality traits and her likes and dislikes are often portrayed as being stupid).
And Lydia, she's quirky and funny and brave. But she's not fearless and I loved the balance there was with her character--that she could have fears and insecurites while still being strong and brave and that those traits aren't mutually exclusive.
Then there's Cassie...she's lovely. I loved the the book wasn't a cliche portrayal of grief, Cassie grieved in her own way and it was heartbreaking and realistic. And she's shy and quiet, but she doesn't come across as weak because of that.
And then there's the boys...they made me laugh and the relationships the girls formed with them were hilarious and realistic.
So many YA books have those True Love relationships but this one wasn't the usual "OMG! I would die for you, die without you, I will love you forever and ever and ever because we're soulmates!" type relationships. As fun as those ones can be to read, it is refreshing to read more realistic portrayals of relationships too--ones that have their moments of sweetness, but aren't perfect, and the characters will argue and get mad at each other every once in a while and that's okay because you don't have to get on with someone 100% of the time and it's okay to be mad at people you care about, because you can forgive each other.
Also has to be mentioned: Emma's dad. Although he's not in the book much, he was hilarious and may actually be my favourite character in the book. He just made me smile a lot. Actually, Jaclyn Moriarty is really good at writing parents (even more impressive considering the format of these books because it would be so easy to have them be like all those other YA books with MIA parents).
And I think that's enough gushing for one review. I'd rate this 5 out of 5, and I desperately want the other two books in the series. Go read this book (and the first book--which is more companion novel than prequel). I especially recommend this if you're into the Jessica Darling series by Megan McCafferty.